Bo Jackson Beckett Covers Ranked
As a young collector in the late 1980s and early ’90s, it wasn’t just the sports cards that left an impression on me. I can still remember Beckett covers from decades ago. The players, the photos, the hours spent running my finger up and down the price guide tracking up and down arrows — all created memories that have stuck with me even as other memories start to slip.
I didn’t buy every issue of every sport, but I did have a nice stack back in the day. Ken Griffey Jr.’s majestic swing, the awkward teenage smile of Eric Lindros draped in gold medals, San Diego teammates Tony Gwynn and Fred McGriff, and cowboy Nolan Ryan are just a few of the Beckett covers that remain stamped in my head.
And then there’s Bo Jackson.
Between 1989 and 1991 he appeared on seven Beckett covers, four baseball and three football. The number is high, but it’s a testament to his fame at the time. A top-level star in two sports was just the start. Add in all the endorsements, the Nike campaign that made “Bo Knows” an earworm, a cartoon superteam with Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky — Bo was a big deal. Every massive home run, cannon to home, long touchdown and broken bat added to the legend.
It’s understandable why Jackson would appear on so many Beckett covers in such a short amount of time. He was popular with collectors, too. Plus, you could divide them up into two different magazines.
Bo Jackson Beckett Cover Rankings
Although I’m part of the Beckett Media family now, think of this list as being done by my younger self sitting on the floor or at the kitchen table, learning about the baseball cards, tracking how prices were changing and sorting stacks. These magazine all come from a different era, one that I cherish but don’t necessarily know the stories behind. The bigger the impression to retroactive kid me, the higher the ranking.
7. Beckett Baseball Card Monthly – February, 1990
For being the worst Bo Beckett, there’s nothing bad about this cover. But it’s hard to find something that truly stands out. It’s a perfectly fine batting pose. But just like the thousands of baseball cards that have similar poses on them each year, there’s nothing that really pops. By comparison, the 1990 Upper Deck card on the front shows plenty of energy and athleticism.
6. Beckett Football Card Magazine – November, 1990
Jackson’s second appearance on a Beckett Football cover is an exercise in simplicity. The running photo doesn’t showcase a lot of action but it makes up for it in the details. The minimalist masthead takes a sideline, reminding readers of what’s inside but still letting the image do the work. In November, 1990, a sports card magazine was probably going to sell itself simply by the name so covers like these were able to act as art and not say a lot.
5. Beckett Baseball Card Monthly – November, 1991
Thirty years later and I’m still not used to Bo Jackson in a White Sox uniform (although it’s not quite as jarring as Bo Jackson the California Angel). At an initial glance, there’s not a lot going on in the photo. But then you start to notice the focus, first in Jackson’s eyes then with the lens. His arms might be mostly covered, but you can still see a ton of definition and muscle in that swing.
It should also be said that the design team at the time was better at covers than faux cards created for said covers.
4. Beckett Baseball Card Monthly – June, 1989
Any reason to showcase the baseball card perfection of the 1987 Bo Jackson Rookie Card is a good reason. But there’s more going on here. The matching blue masthead is part of it. So is the fine detail of the blades of grass, shadows and Jackson’s gaze as he presumably tracks down a fly ball with ease. The layering of the masthead and sample card was nothing new, but there’s a nice balance here. Simply said, this is a cover that just works.
3. Beckett Football Card Monthly – January, 1991
Bo Jackson as a superhero is a justified metaphor. One of the more gimmicky Beckett covers of the era, it’s still a lot of fun. It’s Costacos Brothers-esque, channeling the iconic posters that put athletes into unexpected costumes, often posing on Hollywood-style set pieces.
2. Beckett Football Card Magazine – December, 1989
Beckett Football Card Magazine got off to an intense start. Jackson’s essentially staring down collectors, daring them to see what’s inside. Being the first issue certainly is special but here it doesn’t make a difference. Even if it were the 278th issue, this cover still holds up with its close-up glare.
Subconsciously, there’s another connection I make with this cover. Although Jackson isn’t pictured and the framing is a little different, it reminds me of the NES box art for Tecmo Bowl (the original game, not Tecmo Super Bowl that came along a few years later and made Jackson a video game icon).
1. Beckett Baseball Card Monthly – June, 1990
It’s one of most memorable sports photos ever. Simultaneously capturing Jackson’s swagger in both baseball and football, it might just be the perfect portrait. Score thought it was great as well, including it on #697 in their 1990 baseball set. That just happens to be one of the most memorable cards of the era as well.
There are few images that capture the power, energy and culture of the era. There’s Michael Jordan’s free throw line dunk and there’s this.